I recently ran across website that says for £29.99 ($47.74) one can become a ‘real’ titled laird of Scotland. Given that my maternal family are Blackwoods and came from Scotland, I thought what a great novelty to have hanging in my study (whenever I get a study…). I’m an American, and its not like I can bear a title and be all haighfalutin anyway, so what harm could it do?
[Note: Try as I might, I am not an expert in my family’s history. If I say something below that is incorrect, you would be my friend in pointing it out to me.]
Join the aristocracy – become a Scottish Laird, Lord or Lady!:
Have you ever dreamt of being a member of the aristocracy? Of having an impressive title before your name? Well, here is your chance. For only £29.99 we can provide you with a perfectly legal hereditary title and ownership of land in Scotland.
According to old Scots law and custom a landowner is granted the right to use the title ‘Laird’ and female landowners are styled as ‘Lady’. Some male Lairds choose instead to use the more well-known English translation ‘Lord’. Scottish Lairds are members of the lower aristocracy and historically held feudal rights under the crown. In the table of precedence a Laird ranks above an Esquire and directly below a Baron.
By purchasing a plot of land on the Blackwood Estate in Scotland you will acquire the right to style yourself Laird, Lord or Lady of Blackwood. At the same time you will contribute to the preservation of Loch Wood, one of Scotland’s few remaining native woodlands. What better way to start your new life as a member of the aristocracy than to embrace your own favourite charity?
As Laird, Lord or Lady of Blackwood you will also be granted the exclusive right to wear the Blackwood coat-of-arms and tartan, that may not be used by others than the rightful owners of land on the Blackwood Estate. The coat-of-arms will look very impressive on your stationery and business cards. We also provide various aristocratic accessories imprinted with the Blackwood coat-of-arms in our webshop.
As a member of the elevated classes you may wish to take up other Scottish lordly pursuits, such as wearing the kilt, fishing for salmon or even playing the bagpipe if the fancy takes you! And do not be surprised if your new title brings about some added perks, like plane upgrades and other preferential treatment. It’s been known to happen. The Lairdship Portfolio will also make a perfect gift for someone special.
Buy land on the Blackwood Estate and commence your new life of entitlement today!
Below is a map of the location of the property one could buy a plot in.
A few things seemed out of place to me. First off, it’s my understanding that the Blackwoods were a sept of the lowlands Douglas Clan. There were noble Blackwoods that have been recorded in history, but in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which seems to have been a layover, at least for my ancestors, on their way to America. There are no claims to a Blackwood Clan on this site, but it wanted to make the point clear.
Next is the ‘coat-of-arms’. Per the Court of the Lord Lyon:
There is a widespread misconception that a family or a clan can have a family or clan Coat of Arms. Many heraldic and clan web sites and other media suggest that a person has the right to use the family or clan Arms. This is completely incorrect.
Third on the hit list is the tartan. Per the Scottish Tartans Authority this tartan was:
Designed for the exclusive use of the owner and the souvenir plot owners of Loch Wood on the Blackwood Estate Lanarkshire.
So what one has a right to are the corporate arms and tartan of an entity stood up to sell titles to parcels of land and other branded merchandise that looks heraldic. So what about the ‘title’? Can a trifle like £29.99 be all it takes to be ennobled? Maybe hundreds of years ago before mass inflation debased the pound. I would wager that one would be hard pressed to get a meal at an upscale restaurant for that amount. The Telegraph had an article back in 2004 on this topic, although the land in question was in
Glencairn. From the article:
The Court of the Lord Lyon, which deals with heraldic matters and coats of arms in Scotland, said the Glencairn title – like the many others on offer – was “meaningless”.
A spokesman said: “We have had countless inquiries. The title Laird of Glencairn would only apply to the owner of the entire estate, if it exists, not to those buying square-foot portions of it.”
It was decided five years ago that the sale of such plots would not be recorded in the national register of Scotland, and therefore there is no proper legal record of the miniature land sales.
Critics say the adverts wrongly claim the word laird – Scots for landowner- is interchangeable with lord. But it simply means landowner, whether titled or not.
A website mentioned in the article also has some interesting information if you’d like further reading.
So back to the idea of what harm it could do. For one thing, it diminishes the value of the titles of true Lords and Ladies. It makes a mockery of an institution of British heritage, which you don’t have to be British to admire. I know in the modern world we are all equal and there is no such thing as privilege, and the system of nobility was undermined (for the most part) nearly a century ago, but it is a matter of principle. There are still noble families that have maintained their holdings for hundreds of years. I don’t think they are or were God’s elect, but they for better or worse helped shape the course of the nations of the United Kingdom. And there have been legitimate purchases of titles in the past, but they cost a wee bit more than £29.99, and they didn’t come from a private corporation.
Therefore, despite my draw to the novelty of it, I don’t think I will become Lord Blevins of Blackwood, lest I become the laughingstock of my family and an embarrassment to all who know me.
Update ( 16 January 2017): It appears years after my original post the Laird of Blackwood site is still very much alive. For the low price of £29.99 ($36.13 as of this update) you get the following:
- 1 square foot of first rate Scottish estate – Of course, this is all bunk.As previously noted, the souvenir plot is not deeded, nor recorded. If one were to tramp around the forest, I doubt very much they would find their 1 square foot “fiefdom”. If one wants a more legitimate square foot plot of land in Scotland, I’d recommend just buying a bottle of Laphroaig Scotch and redeeming the code that comes with it for a souvenir plot at their distillery on the Isle of Islay. The bottle of Scotch will cost a wee bit more than the Laird scam does, but unlike the fake title, you could theoretically pass the bottle down to your descendants, but they might prefer you just share it with them now.
- The right to style yourself as Laird, Lord or Lady of Blackwood – Again, baloney. One square foot of land does not a laird make. A fool maybe, but not a laird.
- Exclusive right to use the Blackwood insignia – Blackwood is not a clan, it is a sept of Clan Douglas, ergo, there is no Blackwood insignia recognized in the clan system. They perpetrators of this scam may have a logo they use and allow others to use, but it is not what people think it is. It is made out to look like a clan crest, but it has not standing with the Court of the Lord Lyon. It’s not historic, its just a drawing.
- Exclusive right to use the Blackwood (Loch Wood) district tartan – Alas, this is properly registered. If one buys a souvenir plot, per the restrictions detailed in the Scottish Register of Tartans, this particular tartan is limited to use by “owners” of said souvenir plots. Granted, I highly doubt one would want to show up at their local highland games wearing a kilt of this; it might be a bit embarrassing.
Any Blackwood wishing to wear a tartan with familiar significance should wear one of the Douglas variants, such as this:
- A legal Title Deed to your property, signed, sealed and printed on vellum parchment, which will make a very elegant wall display – I’m sure it does 🙂
- A Master Title Deed to change your title on bank accounts, credit cards and other ID – The spin on this is that the “title” isn’t recognized anywhere, and Scots by and large aren’t the ones falling for the scam, its Americans trying to reconnect to lost family heritages that they don’t understand primarily. I’ve expounded on the notion several times.
- An impressive Certificate of Entitlement, printed on vellum parchment – This “certificate of entitlement” is worthless: only the Sovereign of the United Kingdom is the fons honorum and able to grant titles in Scotland. Granted, this scam skirts this through some obscurities in ancient feudal law, but again, lairds are the holders of sizable estates, not square foot souvenir plots.
- A Plot Locator Map with road directions and the official OS grid reference coordinates to your land, including directions on how to find it hassle-free – I’m not going to knock this one; it probably would be fun to go exploring in the forest.
- Stunning photos and useful information regarding Loch Wood and the Blackwood Estate – There’s not a lot of useful information on the village of Blackwood nor the Blackwood Estate (or what is left of it) online, so if Native Woods Preservation Ltd has useful information, that might be of value.
- A letter of greeting from us at Native Woods Preservation Ltd – Meh.
- A stylish gift folder imprinted with the original Blackwood coat-of-arms and tartan in full colours – Don’t get me started on coats of arms; more on that topic here.
- A Blackwood insignia adhesive label – see my comment on the insignia above.
- Access to the beautiful grounds of Loch Wood – This needs more research. There was a historical Blackwood Estate, but I can find no record that Native Woods Preservation Ltd owns the land they are selling souvenir plots on.
- The knowledge that you are supporting a good cause – Really, I understand the feel-good of this notion, but how does one ascertain that it is for a good cause?
I’m not the only person to comment on this particular scam, and maybe scam it too strong a word, but I’ll stick with it. Another site called LairdReviews.com has an entry on Native Woods Preservation Ltd. This site states:
The domain that sells the Laird of Blackwood title is owned in Torrance, California – part of Los Angeles. Not very Scottish. The site claims to be run by a UK Company, Native Woods Preservation Ltd, formed in February 2010 by a Norwegian, Siri Margaret Kvaløy and run from an office in Glasgow. Not very Scottish either. Siri is a Norwegian property developer who moved to Glasgow from her native Oslo in 2010.
Also, the site goes into detail about the ambiguity of what one is actually purchasing:
Like this site, the Laird of Blackwood site is created with WordPress, using a commercially available eCommerce theme from the themefoundry. As one of the most recent vendors in our group, we have been impressed with how they have copied the best aspects of the more established vendors and even added a few extras of their own. There is a comprehensive FAQ section, hundreds of personalised accessories, and even a section on how buying from them will help Woodland Preservation, though somehow that lacks conviction. The first disappointment comes with a page describing the land on offer – Loch Wood by the village of Blackwood. Blackwood sits adjacent to the M74 motorway – Scotland’s main arterial route South to England. It is no more in the Highlands than London and being a Laird is all about the Highlands.
Another disappointment is that the postal address appears to be a PO Box and there is no telephone number to call. Why are so may of these Title sellers so secretive? There is no email address either, but we did send our standard set of questions using the contact form. Two days later we had an informative reply from Margaret (Kvaløy), advising us that they did define the plots using OS grid references, documents would be shipped within a week (but no, they would not accept returns) and we were directed to their range of accessories.
Really the worrying things about this web site are not what is there – which are generally impressive, but what is not there. There is no information about who is behind the venture, no office that can be contacted (other than the forwarding address in Glasgow and the contact form). The site does have an About Us page, it just does not have any information about the people behind Native Woods Preservation Ltd. The only information of note is that the Company bought the wood on finance – hardly reassuring news. There is no information about the site’s attitude towards customer privacy or security. Do they sell customers’ details? Is the site secure? Do they comply with the Data Protection Act? Who knows. They don’t say.
There is an online forum, which was an excellent otherwise only seen on the sites of LochaberHighland Estates (Highland Titles) and the web site also linked to an informative Facebook page, with a dreary 26 users.
Despite my reservations about the “product” offered, the company appears to be legitimate, as can be ascertained from Companies in the UK. If the financial reporting on that site is accurate, Native Woods Preservation Ltd had assets of £122,103 in 2016, but I still can’t tell what they do, or what they preserve.
I think this and other laird scams play off the vanity of Americans. We claim in America to be an egalitarian society: we are all equal. This is a lie. We don’t want to be equal, we (of European descent) want to be aristocrats. Some of us may have legitimately had noble ancestors, but we want to be better than those around us, but we don’t want to acknowledge our own “betters”.
Most of the people who fall for this scam will never purport to be a Laird of Blackwood, and they probably would never understand that there can only be one laird of any estate, but they want a link to a heritage that wasn’t passed down to them. I can relate with that. My family, whatever noble lineage it had centuries ago, was extinguished centuries ago when the cadet branches crossed the Atlantic to the colonies.
So the moral of the story is this: don’t waste your money buying a fake title. It’s meaningless, and even if its done in a joking manner, it funds a falsehood. If you want to reconnect to your Scottish heritage, join the society of the clan that your family was associated with. I’d wager you get a better return on your investment that way.